Unlikely Converts

Unlikely Converts

Nothing keeps Christ in Christmas like our annual viewing of The Lord of the Rings.  Now before you accuse me of sarcasm or heresy, consider that Tolkien’s Christian worldview shines brightly through every line of his books as well as through all twelve hours of the extended versions of Peter Jackson’s adaptation.  Against all odds, as the irresistible darkness, oppression and malice of a Dark Lord covers the world in shadow and sorrow, salvation comes to the ruined race of men from the most unlikely of heroes.   Like all great epic tales, great odds are overcome and great courage is exercised as common men perform uncommon deeds.

Tolkien’s magnum opus is filled with many nuggets of wisdom, spoken at salient points.  In one exchange, the main character, Frodo laments, “I wish the ring had never come to me,” as bearing it had become unbearable.  His friend, Gandalf responds, “So do all who live to see such times.  But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’”  But not all the quotable quotes have such gravitas.  Gimli, a dwarf, who provides no end of comic relief, quips when facing the prospect of a futile frontal assault on the Dark Lord’s stronghold, “certainty of death, small chance of success – what are we waiting for?”

The Lord of the Rings is a powerful story of courage, friendship, and redemption, eclipsed only by what its author once called “the only true myth” – the gospel.  The gospel is a story that is so unlikely, in which common men, empowered by faith, perform uncommon deeds and in which the ruined race of men is gloriously redeemed by a mighty hero, who took on the form of a servant and humbled himself, even to death on a cross.   The gospel is a story of unlikely converts, not of men whose moral excellence made them acceptable to God or earned his favor, nor men of power whose mighty deeds destroyed the power of their great enemies, death and the devil.  No, the gospel is a story of the weak and powerless, snatched as burning brands from the fire.

Nowhere is this seen more powerfully than in Luke 2 – a passage sometimes called, “the Christmas story.”   Here the Lord of glory is born into quiet obscurity while the only announcement is given to shepherds, the most despised and outcast class of society.  These enigmatic shepherds were the most unlikely of converts — men who were notoriously under suspicion, who were rejected from temple worship due to their habitual and ritual uncleanness, and whose word was not acceptable in the courts.  If anyone had hope to receive God’s goodwill and favor because of their works it was not these men.

Yet these were the men to whom God announced, “for unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Unto “you!”  No one gave these men anything, but unto them God had given a savior!   Luther once wrote that “the gospel is in the personal pronouns.”  Like them, if we hope to receive God’s goodwill and favor because of our works, then we are sorely mistaken.  But the good news is that a savior has been born to us, Christ the Lord.  For you see, we are all the most unlikely of converts!

Join us this Lord’s Day, December 16, as we examine the story of the shepherds in Luke 2 and consider God’s powerful plan to save the most unlikely of converts.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

Believe!

Believe!

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an iconic fixture in the American observance of Thanksgiving. Among the lineup of massive balloons in this year’s 91st installment was “Harold the Baseball Player.” The return of Harold to the lineup of cartoon characters and superheroes was a tribute to the 1947 Holiday classic, Miracle on 34th Street, in which the float is featured prominently.

Perhaps you have seen the movie and remember the story’s central character, Susan, who has become hardened eight year-old skeptic regarding the existence of Santa Claus. That is until she meets an eccentric Macy’s store Santa named Kris Kringle. After a series of run-ins with the store psychiatrist, Kris finds himself on trial, fighting commitment to a sanitorium for claiming to be the one-and-only-Santa. In a melodramatic courtroom climax, Kris’ lawyer with the assistance of the U. S. Post Office proves that Kris is THE Santa Claus. But it is not quite enough for Susan. When she fails to receive an extraordinary gift she requested, she is plunged again into disbelief. As she struggles to believe, the tells herself, “believe, just believe.” You may have noticed the word “Believe” on the front of Macy’s New York store as this year’s parade rolled by.

Disillusionment comes easily when things don’t turn out as we expect and those we trust don’t seem to deliver. If this is true with relatively minor things like the existence of mere men of legend, consider how devastating it can be when it comes to matters of eternal life and death. Have you ever been disappointed with God, either His action or His timing? Have you ever felt that His promises have failed or that we have ruined our chances of knowing His love and mercy? Have you ever feared that God doesn’t care about “people like me?” Disappointment with God is a common struggle. This is why the Bible tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

As with a parade, we cannot see the big picture, only what is passing in front of us. To look at God through the lens of our circumstances can give a distorted view of Him. In the Bible, the Gospels give us that “drone’s eye view” of the parade and reveal to us the unfolding of God’s promises through the incarnation of a Redeemer.

Join us this Lord’s Day, November 26, as we celebrate the season by considering from Matthew’s gospel the unbelievable story of the eternal God who became flesh and dwelled among us, to keep all God’s promises and to give us new life. This week we consider Matthew 1:1-17, the genealogy of Jesus, and what it says about God’s love and faithfulness.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Contentment or Complacency?

Contentment or Complacency?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines complacency as “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”  On the surface it is easy to confuse complacency with contentment in our spiritual lives.   We are encouraged in Philippians 4:12-13 to learn contentment, not based on our circumstances, but on Christ’s sufficiency.  Yet, Psalm 36:1-2 warns us that it is those out of fellowship with the Lord who never have concern about their spiritual growth or condition.

Even mighty men of faith struggle to distinguish contentment from complacency in their spiritual lives.  John Calvin comments regarding Abraham in Genesis 17:1.

“The want of offspring had previously excited him to constant prayers and sighings; for the promise of God was so fixed in his mind, that he was ardently carried forward to seek its fulfillment. And now, falsely supposing that he had obtained his wish, he is led away by the presence of his son according to the flesh, from the expectation of a spiritual seed.”

Had Abraham become content with what God had not promised and so become complacent in his faith?  How often is this a struggle for us?  Join us this Lord’s Day, July 9, as we examine Genesis 17 and consider God’s grace kindness toward us, even when our faith is languid and complacent.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Warp and Woof

Warp and Woof

Mathematics has axioms – presuppositions, accepted without proof — which form the basis for all subsequent mathematical proofs.   Likewise, Christianity demands certain presuppositions.  As a revealed religion, Christianity’s presuppositions, its axioms, must be accepted on faith.   But this often seems to be an intellectual cop-out.

An appeal to faith in a recent conversation with a friend and skeptic brought charges of “philosophical laziness.”  “No so,” I answered, but I also had to admit that the exercise of faith is not binary. Faith is not either on or off, absolute or absent, and not black and white.   Faith has contours.  It has a warp and woof which creates contours in quality, character, and shading.  Faith has axioms, but it also demands proofs.  It has doubts, but it asks questions.  It waxes and wanes, but does not fail.  It is a gift, but it must be exercised and grow directed by the Spirit through a process of sanctification.

Abraham is the paradigmatic man of faith in Scripture and Genesis 15:6 is the core profession of his faith.  But even in this passage we see the contours of Abraham’s faith as it is received and exercised.

Join us this Lord’s Day, June 18 as we examine the faith of Abraham from Genesis 15 and consider the contours of our own faith.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.